Santa’s Village was an interactive Christmas theme park with over-sized candy canes, colorfully painted mushrooms and decorative gingerbread house. It was located in the San Bernardino Mountains on Route 18 (Rim of the World Highway) in an area called Skyforest near Lake Arrowhead, California.
The 220-acre park was created by real estate developer Glenn Holland who franchised his idea into two other Santa Villages. One was near San Francisco at 6348 Santa Cruz Highway, Santa Cruz, California in Scotts Valley, and the other in East Dundee, Illinois. Holland died in 2002 at 84.
The Santa’s Village in Skyforest opened May 28, 1955 more than a month before Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. Santa’s Village was geared towards children offering such entertainment as a giant whirling Christmas Tree, burro rides, a bobsled ride, a suspended monorail with yellow bumblebee cars, a miniature train ride, a spinning snow ball ride, a Crooked Tree House slide, a Ferris wheel, hand-cranked railroad carts, live reindeer who pulled Santa’s candy-cane adorned sleigh; a giant Jack-in the-Box, an Alice in Wonderland maze ride, a Cinderella Pumpkin Coach ride, a gas-powered tractor ride, an antique auto ride, and shops selling baked goods, candy, and toys. Mrs. Claus had her own Spice Kitchen, and there was a Good Witch’s Bakery that baked large, yummy gingerbread cakes.
On hand to greet these visitors of all ages was Santa, Mrs. Claus, and numerous helpers dressed as pixies and elves who operated rides, worked in shops, and served food to the public.
The park also had characters like the Easter Bunny who lived in a large egg, Little Bo Peep, the scarecrow Jack Punkinhead, the Lollipop Lady and Rainbow Man who wandered about the park. Children could also see shows at the Wee Puppet Theater, and visit a petting zoo with sheep, ducks, and goats.
There was also Santa’s Post Office and wishing wells, toy soldiers, Santa’s Toy Factory by the magic pond, and music that filtered down from the tree tops. And for a fast meal, there was The Pixie Pantry which served hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, and soda.
Unfortunately, by March 1, 1998 attendance to the park, once considered California’s biggest tourist attractions, declined drastically which forced the small family-owned park to close and the facilities abandoned to wind, rain and other destruction forces of nature turning it in to a holiday ghost town. Meanwhile, the site has been used as a storage area for a logging operation.
In May, 2014, there was encouraging news that 154-acres of the property was sold to a Lake Arrowhead resident who wanted to resurrect the area into SkyPark at Santa’s Village. The attraction will feature Santa’s Village as well as mountain biking, hiking, climbing, fly fishing, camping, zip lines and other action adventure sports. Developed by Bill Johnson of Mountain Country Realty, SkyPark is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2015.
The second Santa’s Village opened in 1957 near Scotts Valley in Santa Cruz County, California. It closed in January 1979 due to poor attendance brought on by bad weather that kept the crowds away. Remnants from the park can be found in Macdorsa Park in Scotts Valley that hosts two concrete mushrooms from Santa’s Village. And three of the original buildings from the park (St. Nick’s Home, a Chapel and the Elves Workshop) were transported and turned into overnight cabins at Sorenson’s All Season Resorts off of Highway 88.
The final Santa’s Village franchise opened on Memorial Day Weekend in 1959 in the Chicago suburb of East Dundee, Illinois. In February 1963, The Polar Dome Ice Arena and state of the art ice rink was added to the park’s property. The 40,000 square foot Dome had a huge inflatable roof that was at the time the largest in the world. In 1966, a storm tore the roof’s material, and consequently a flat roof was added a year later.
In 2006 the park closed, but was reopened in 2010 by Jason and Amy Sierpien of A Zoo To You, Inc. and property owner Sterling Bay Companies of Chicago. It now features a Zoo theme and is called “Santa’s Village AZOOsment Park.
NOTE: Five other Santa-related holiday parks popular with the public include Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, that has no affiliation with the Glenn Holland franchise facilities; ; North Pole, Home of Santa’s Workshop in Colorado; Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Florida; and North Pole, Home of Santa’s Workshop in New York; and Santa’s Village in Bracebridge, Ontario.
Route 18/Rim of the World Highway
Skyforest, CA (near Lake Arrowhead)
Santa’s Village (Website)
Santa’s Village TV Commercial (Video)
Santa’s Village – Skyforest – Abandoned (Video)
Lost Parks of Northern California (Video)
Santa’s Village – Skyforest Reopening (Video)
Santa’s Village, Dundee, IL (Website)
Santa’s Village, Dundee, IL – History (Video)
Santa’s Village, Dundee, IL – Closed (Video)
Santa’s Village – Google (Map)